Friday, January 29, 2016

January Book Review

While joking with a friend that I needed to come up with new blog content now that this is not a medical journal, she said "book reviews, please!"

I'm not sure why what I read feels so personal, but it kind of does so I've always felt a little hesitant to share. I read (what I would consider) a pretty wide variety. Though I appreciate others recommendations, I tend to shy away from offering suggestions because, well...every one has different taste and I would hate to be the source of someone wasting five hours.

Maybe that's one thing I should disclose: I am a Book Quitter. To many reading enthusiasts, it is sacrilege to not finish a book you start, but I have no trouble closing it up and moving on without ever knowing for sure if it finally got better at the end. The books that I list here will be ones that I've completed...I think that's only fair.

My "reviews" are brief and I've included a favorite quote from each book because, quotes!

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
This book was a bit disturbing, in that it stayed with me for a while after. The story is told from three points of view...a young boy, a woman in her 80's and a middle-aged sheriff...I like that style. The story does wrap up in a nice bow at the end, which I sometimes like, just to change things up.

But since then I've learned to just go ahead and take fairness out of the equation. If you do, things stand the chance of making a whole lot more sense.

The Vow by Kim and Krickett Carpenter
I'm a sucker for a good love story, particularly one that has weathered a little adversity and come out on the other side. This is a true story, which gets bonus points from me. The book cover said it had been made into a movie...maybe I'll watch it with the girls someday.

Like all the thoughtful friends who came to see us, Lisa and Megan were almost like visitors from another planet. They were from a world where people got up, ate breakfast, went to work, watched TV, ate in restaurants, read magazines, took care of the yard, and did all the other normal, everyday things of life without even thinking about them. My world had become a world of doctors, hospitals, hospital food, therapy, living with my in-laws, dealing with collection agencies and medical bills, making calls to our insurance company, and spending as much time as I could with Krickitt. My job, my team, my friends, my married life—it was all like a distant dream

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A book about books...very clever. This one had a bit of language in it, a little mystery, a little romance...a fun read.

Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.

Make it Zero by Mary Frances Bowley
This is a beautiful, inspiring book with tales about people making a difference by just doing something. There were many first-hand accounts from people who'd been rescued from poverty or abuse. Some of it talked about foster care, which was obviously very meaningful to me. Its discouraging to look at all the problems in the world but this book helps break it down until you think, wow...I could really make a difference!

You cannot judge appearance; you never know a person's story unless you hear it--every created human has dignity.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Hallway Projects

Just before Christmas Shaun complete another house project. Its so nice to have another one checked off the list, the list that never goes away when your house was built in 1912. Here are the before, during and afters:

Fall 2012, when we first looked at the house that God placed in our laps. Look at my little Aiden-guy!

one end of the hallway....

...the opposite end. So. Much. Wallpaper.

 Summer 2013

Fall 2015
Shaun does multiple, pain-staking coats of mud to get the walls smooth enough to paint. It is a process!

Winter 2015

I went back and forth with the carpet/no carpet decision. I like the warmth and quietness of carpet, but not how it wears or the questionable cleanliness of it. Ultimately, we did both. Shaun laid carpet on the stairs and laid engineered flooring in the hallway. He used padding underneath so there's a nice "give" to it, making it fairly quiet when the boys are tromping back and forth.

The color I chose for the walls, which is carried from the front entry way all the way to the third floor,  is a Sherwin Williams color (mixed at Home Depot) called "Sensible Hue" (because I am nothing if not sensible...I'm trying to take cues from Amanda and not be that way all the time :). Depending on the lighting it can look gray or green and I really like both.

There is still plenty more to do just around that corner where you can't see, but I'm thrilled with the progress so far. It just feels finished...nice.

Third floor stairs and hallway:

This photo is from Fall 2012, when we first looked at the house and immediately fell in love.

Summer 2013
Stinky animal carpet made a one-way trip to the dump. We stripped the wallpaper and scrapped the popcorn ceiling, blew in insulation, taped, sanded and painted.

Winter 2015

I hung canvases that I'd had kicking around for a while and spray-painted the base of a light fixture from gold to black to re-purpose it.

It may take a while for us to complete projects (we have a loooong history of that, though in our defense we've also done a ton of projects and had a lot of life going on) but the result is always worth the time, effort and wait. Shaun is THE man!

This house has been so much work and also such a gift. I can't wait to see how God continues to use it for his purposes.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. 
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 
Psalm 127:1

Monday, January 25, 2016

Project 365, Week 4

My kids prayers were answered...we got snow! 

January 18
MLK Day and no school. The kids made the best of the dusting of snow we got overnight.

My brother's family came over for a visit and the cousins were SO happy to play together.

9 year-old Amanda and (almost) 7 year-old Trey, almost the same height!

January 19
No picture.

January 20
Amanda and I are note-exchangers and she usually leaves mine on my bed or nightstand.

"God is with us at all times, even in the hardest Mom, even in the hardest. Love Amanda You are the best. Never give up, Mom."

January 21
We enjoyed a quiet half-day afternoon at home.

January 22
Several visitors came by to give hugs.

January 23
As soon as we were home from basketball, the kids headed out.

The long awaited (at least by my kids) first real snowfall of the season, made more fun with cousins.

And the AFC Championship winner is....DENVER! (Those are not bandwagon shirts Shaun and Nathan are wearing...they are lifetime, true fans.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

State of the House-January

While I am no longer doing weekly cancer updates (yay, yay and yay!), I thought maybe a monthly-ish update of things happening around here would be helpful. (With a sprinkiling of random photos from the month.)

Today marks sixteen months since diagnosis, the day we were "walking across the street and got hit by a truck", as the surgeon described it. We're more normal than we've been in more than a year, yet it can hardly be described as normal.

The nurse comes three times a week to attend to my wound, as she has been doing since July. The latest "thing" we're trying is the wound vac which is on 24/7.  I wasn't happy to have it back, but I'm also game to try anything right now. We're praying in the next month or so this does what it needs to do. My energy is good and it seems there are no harmful, lasting side effects from the chemo...yay! It feels so amazing and wonderful to not be dealing with all that "stuff" (maybe that goes without saying?).

"H" has been with us one month already! When we got the call about him we were just a couple weeks removed from chemo treatments and tax season was just around the corner. We agreed to take him on a weekend trial, and quite honestly, a big part of me was looking for any sign that he would not be a good fit for our just didn't seem like ideal timing to be jumping back into things.

But our "trial" time went well and it just feels right. I trust that God brought him into our lives and so I can also trust Him for the wisdom and strength to be mom to H for as long as he needs. One of the most common questions we get, how long will he be with you, is one that is most hard to answer because no one really knows. We'll have him until he goes back to his biological family or college, so 1-4 years....not exactly a precise estimate.

Our house is a culture shock to all who come. Imagine showing up at a stranger's house with your overnight bag, ready to make you home with people you've never met. Everything is new and different from what you are used to....sounds (the refrigerator clicking on and off, water running through pipes, music playing), smells (laundry detergent, pets, food cooking), household rules and rhythms (bedtime/morning routine, screen time, eating habits)...and on and on, all at once. Much of it we can't help, but where I can I've tried to soften the transition. I bought cocoa puffs and we've allowed some family-friendly video game time, for instance. Though its awful what's asked of them, I am continually amazed at how resilient kids are.

Tax season has officially begun. It is a strain on us all, but we are veterans and continually work to make something that is hard not be something that is also bad. We are so very grateful for God's provision and are excited about what's in store for Shaun's financial services business. He's a hard-working man and I'm thankful for him.

Now that its cold, the kids go right into the school at morning drop off. Amanda asks me to wait by the window until she's climbing the stairs to the second floor so she can wave and blow kisses. She also makes hearts with her fingers and she's pretty good at lip reading so we sometimes have a conversation. I love her big heart and shameless affection.

Every day we have choices to make. Little ones with big consequences. Like choosing others over ourself. Acting out of vulnerability rather than defense. Choosing grace over judgement. Filling our spirit before indulging our flesh. Rejoicing rather than complaining. Forgiveness instead of bitterness. Behaving out of love, not fear. Trusting instead of controlling. Interruption over schedule. Choosing welcome above tradition. Encouragement more than critique. These little but big every day choices have the power to change our mood, lighten our burden, empower another, sow love, reflect Jesus. Sometimes changing the world happens right in our own home. ~Lori Manry

Monday, January 18, 2016

Project 365, Week 3

This morning I'm reflecting on the vision that Martin Luther King had and the legacy he left because he lived for something greater than himself. These are a couple favorite pieces of prayers he prayed:

  • Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.
  • We are all one human race, destined for greatness. Let us live together in peace and love in a Beloved Community.
  • Have faith in God. God is Love. Love never fails. It is our prayer that we may be children of light, the kind of people for whose coming and ministry the world is waiting. Amen.
I have a dream today!

January 10
We made an attempt at homework right after school but there was too much energy so I sent them out before I got frustrated. They got the chalk out and, among other things, wrote a message for Avery to find when she got back from her after-school activity.

January 11
H was antsy to go to a park, so we took him to the river, where there is also a basketball court and the skate park. When he got home from school R joined us and gave H a skate-boarding lesson.

January 12
"Over time You've healed so much of me and I am living proof that although my darkest house would come, Your light could still shine through...amazing grace."

January 13
An exciting day for H....we went and picked up his new glasses and a new bike.

January 14
Snow, dusk and 20 degrees does not stop this crew from riding.

January 15
My birthday. I once read a card that said Birthdays...can't live without them. How profoundly true.

We all know we're going to die and that its not guaranteed we'll make it to 90 and beyond but most of us secretly think we won't be one of the ones whose life is cut "short". My thinking on all that changed this year and there were a couple times I wasn't sure if I'd make it to this birthday. Its a miracle that I'm here and each day is such a gift.

I also love being in my 40's. Many years ago a woman told me how amazing it was to be comfortable you are in your own skin and insecurities fall away, how you feel settled with where you're at in life, how you've gained valuable wisdom. My twenty-something self thought she was just saying that to make herself feel better about getting old.

My twenty-something self used to think the same thing about people who declared how great it was to be a parent. Of course you would say how much you love it, I would're stuck with those snotty-nosed kids.

Another woman, my aunt, once told me that as she's gotten older she realizes how much she doesn't know. I'm raising my hand for that one, too.

It was a blessed day with a deep, deep sense of gratitude.

January 16
Basketball, with a couple cousins.


January 17
Two of my favorite Broncos fans, heading to the office for a bit and thereby completing our grueling tax information compilation, record early for us. What a relief!

With eight minutes left in the game, Shaun was up out of his seat. Denver for the win!